Milwaukie company facing racial discrimination suit

An African American man who works for an Oregon state agency has entered into civil litigation with the agency, seeking $1 million for what he claims is racial discrimination and intimidation in the workplace.

The man works in a Milwaukie, Oregon, warehouse for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Since he began working for the company in 2007, he said he found a rope tied into the shape of a noose at his workstation and has been the recipient of recurring harassment. A spokeswoman for the commission said the agency has investigated and dismissed his complaint, saying it had no basis.

The man, who currently is on leave from his job due to the extreme amount of stress the harassment has caused, said that just is not true. He filed his lawsuit in Multnomah Circuit Court, and he contends he had to live through racial discrimination, ridicule and derogatory words, among other things.

He said his co-workers even have made the "heil Hitler" arm gesture toward each other at the beginning of the work shift. He said he tried to complain about his co-worker's behaviors with the Bureau of Labor and Industries but his complaint was tossed out for being filed past the one-year statute of limitations. The agency's investigation into the complaints found them "extremely troubling," but the agency could take no further action because the statute of limits had passed.

The man said he decided to file suit after he showed up at work one day and saw the noose fashioned out of twine. He said that was a symbol of hatred toward him and he felt his life was threatened.

One of the investigators from the agency said the rope in question is frequently utilized throughout the warehouse for a variety of uses. She said the agency investigated the twine incident and saw no reason to believe it was tied in a certain manner to make a threat.

State and federal laws prohibit employers from discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes the discrimination is very subtle and not easily detected, but other times, as in this case, the actions are glaringly apparent. On both the state and federal level, the timelines for reporting and filing claims are strictly adhered to. Therefore, anyone who feels they may have been discriminated against should contact an attorney right away to discuss the options available to them.

Source: The Oregonian, "Oregon liquor agency hit with racial discrimination lawsuit," Harry Esteve, July 3, 2012

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